Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lisa's Review: The Sister

It's ten to two in the afternoon and I've been waiting for my little sister, Vivian since one-thirty. She's finally coming home at sixty-six years old, after an absence of over forty years."And so begins the tale of two sisters, Ginny and Vivian, reunited after a long estrangement. Ginny's been living in the family's sprawling Victorian home--now creaking and leaking, with a ghost of its lavish past lingering--and keeping mostly to herself. But Vivian's arrival shakes up her sister's carefully ordered world, bringing old memories and resentments to the surface. What dark, unspoken secrets are hiding in the family's past?We soon learn that Ginny and Vivian were born into a long line of distinguished lepidopterists, scientists who study moths and butterflies. Their eccentric father continued the family tradition, and was completely devoted to his work, spending long hours in the laboratory on the upper floor of the house and eventually apprenticing young Ginny as his assistant. As the years passed, his determination to make his mark in this elite field consumed the entire household. Ginny and Vivian's mother, lonely and neglected by her husband, descended into alcoholism and violent mood swings. And before long, rifts opened that may never be repaired. Now, so many years later, the sisters are drawn back into this stormy world of their childhood. But Ginny is ever observant of the present, wondering why her sister has returned, keeping track of her every move, refusing to accept Vivian's version of their past. As Ginny becomes more and more agitated, she turns to what she can understand and control: her beloved science. And, perhaps more like her father than anyoner ealizes, she finds herself tempted by the "most convenient solution." Told through Ginny's unforgettably eerie voice--both childlike and sinister--this is a haunting novel about passion, trust, betrayal, and a family that destroys itself in the name of love.

I have been done with this book for a couple of weeks and still I am unsure how I feel about it. Mostly I just am not sure how to review it. The above summary is magnificent in that it is really clear what this book about. I remained engaged to the end and I was left wanting more, however, not in a good way. There were some things that just didn't get answered. Not a good thing for a book that clearly has no chance for a sequel.

The science was a bit much for me, but I recognized its purpose as not only a methaphor for Ginny, but also as her family's profession and ultimately her safety net and one you understand that and an go with it, it's not so bad. At times, it's downright interesting. There are some interesting themes that get explored here, like alcoholism and co-dependence.

The narrative is a spooky and melancholy - no one reading this could ever expect a happy ending. I found this to be alternately, fascinating and depressing. Fascinating because, I was impressed by the author's ability to permeate the novel with the horrible feeling of foreboding throughout. Depressing because this horrible feeling of foreboding permeated the novel throughout.

Truly a unique novel, I can't recommend it highly, but it's not a waste of time either.

Final Take: 2.5/5


Anonymous ,  March 17, 2008 at 12:30 AM  

I think I liked it a little bit more than you did, but I was also bothered by the fact that a lot of my questions went unanswered, and like you said, with no hope of a sequel. I'd probably give it a 3 if I were the type to dole out stars.

Julie P. March 17, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

I agree with you and lisamm -- somewhere between a 2 and 3 sounds about right. I wanted to really like the book, but I just couldn't. I think a huge part for me was not liking any of the characters. Although, I thought the science parts didn't hold my attention either (but I just blamed it on my lack of interest not bad writing.) I was very let down with the ending too. On a positive note, I do think it's interesting that each reader can kind of think what they want about Ginny -- lots of interpretations.

Julie March 17, 2008 at 2:25 PM  

Guess I won't be asking to borrow this one from you. Sounds like it was a bit much on the science for me.

Darcie March 19, 2008 at 4:58 PM  

I am reading this right now too! I just started so I will pop back by when I finish. Thanks for the review!

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